Weddings are back — and more expensive than ever.
After two years of cancellations and postponements, an estimated 2.5 million couples are expected to get hitched in 2022, according to The Wedding Report, a research company that collects and forecasts wedding statistics.
All that pent-up demand — plus inflation and supply chain issues — are driving up prices on everything from floral arrangements to bridal dresses.
“I think the biggest issue is that many of the popular vendors and locations are booked up this year and into next year,” said Shane McMurray, CEO of The Wedding Report. “Because that’s the case, other options are also getting booked and pushing prices up.”
Expect an average wedding to cost around $27,000 this year, according to a forecast by The Wedding Report. That’s up 12.5% from pre-pandemic levels.
Getting married in exactly the way you want can mean spending much more than you would have before the biggest wedding surge in 40 years began.
But we’ve got dozens of ways to save money on your wedding. If you want to walk down the aisle in style without breaking the bank, prepare to be flexible, creative and patient.
How to Save Money on a Wedding
Your final wedding cost will depend on many factors, including the guest list size, the number of vendors you hire, food, location and more.
So start by creating a short list of “must haves” for your big day. Be willing to compromise or think outside the box on everything else.
“Setting priorities will get you grounded and help you stay on target with your budget,” McShane told The Penny Hoarder.
For example, if you and your fiance care most about food, scale back spending on flower arrangements and ask a friend with a good camera to be your photographer.
Couples spend an average of $6,000 on an engagement ring, according to The Knot 2021 Jewelry and Engagement Study.
Here are a few ways to save money on the bling.
If a traditional diamond ring is in your plan, be savvy when you go jewelry shopping.
“The center diamond is the most valuable part of the ring,” Jayme Pretzloff of Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis explained. “You can always remount the diamond into another mounting in the future.”
She also noted that the tiny pave-set diamonds adorning many rings don’t have anywhere near the value of the main diamond.
So if you’re going to make a significant investment in a ring, focus your dollars on the element that has the most value: the main stone.
This tip takes mutual agreement, but it can help you save big on an engagement ring or on wedding bands. Ask to take a look at a jeweler’s faux offerings, such as cubic zirconia or moissanite.
But what if diamonds — real or fake — aren’t your style? Fret not. You are free to profess your love by displaying a stone of your choice, whether it be pearl or peridot.
If you need a little nontraditional inspiration, check out offerings from small vendors on Etsy and Shopify. You may find handmade jewelry you love for a perfect price.
Venues and Vendors
Venues tend to be the most expensive part of a wedding. Expect it to make up about 30% of your overall budget.
Couples spent an average of $10,700 on a wedding venue in 2021, according to a survey by wedding planning website The Knot.
Here’s how to save on the ceremony, the venue and the vendors.
Not every wedding reception needs to be in a big hall. Thinking outside the box can save you big bucks.
“Consider a bed and breakfast, a public park or an art gallery for your reception,” said Danielle Farrell of Michigan’s Betty Brigade.
Farrell used a senior center in her hometown for her wedding, which included an outdoor park area and banquet center “for a fraction of what it would have cost at a hotel. And it was gorgeous!”
Other non-traditional venues include restaurants, breweries or vacation houses.
When viewing venues, take note of their furniture and tabletop styles, said event planner Sacha Patires.
If the venue matches your personal style, you could save a bundle that you would have otherwise spent on furniture rentals.
Looking for a unique all-in-inclusive experience on a budget? Companies across the country now offer to bring the party to you.
The Wedding Wagon in Las Vegas will come to you. All you need is $129 to seal the deal with a witness and photos.
On the East Coast, Washington, D.C. business Pop Wed Co. offers chic elopement services (they even take care of the paperwork) for $2,500.
Other companies offer elopement packages that include accommodations, an officiant, hair and makeup services, photography and more — at a fraction of the price of a traditional wedding.
Buying from individual vendors may be more cost-effective than buying a package deal from your wedding venue. Contact vendors directly to compare prices.
On the flip side, some venues include items such as tables, chairs, flatware and linens in their rental fee. A venue with a higher price tag might be worth it if it supplies you with the things you need.
Got a recommendation from a friend? Maybe they had a great experience with a vendor and you’ll want to consider that florist or baker as well.
When you contact a vendor, make sure to mention the friend who referred you. There may be a referral discount (or a bonus for your friend).
Wedding planners know how to work with budgets of all sizes and will go to bat for you over contracts and negotiations. Whether it’s a destination wedding or a backyard wedding, a planner can help make your vision a reality.
The cost to hire a planner varies widely, from a few hundred dollars to as much as $4,000 for higher-end planners.
On average, you can expect to pay $1,600 to $1,800.
Not sure if you can afford a professional to plan your entire wedding? Many offer supplemental help by the hour or day.
A super-organized friend with their own transportation and take-charge attitude is just as valuable as an expensive wedding planner. Let this be your friend’s wedding gift to you, and put them in charge of wedding day logistics.
If you’re getting married at a church where you’re a member, call on its social groups.
Note, however, that these groups may ask for a small donation in exchange for their members’ time.
“Use vendors that do more than one thing,” said wedding planner Amy McNall of Unmistakably You.
Think about a florist who also rents linens, or a wedding planner who offers decor installation.
“You’ll save on the ‘get me through the door’ fee that you have to pay each individual vendor you use,” McNall said.
Ask your wedding vendors if you can advertise their services at your celebration in exchange for a reduced rate.
Word of mouth is powerful advertising indeed, especially if some of your guests are planning their own upcoming weddings.
Skip clergy or justice of the peace fees by having a friend officiate your wedding ceremony. Becoming ordained is simple and doesn’t take much time, but be sure your officiant is complying with local laws and regulations.
Make sure your selected officiant is comfortable with public speaking! And treat them to a kind gift for their services.
“’I think’ and ‘I guess’ are the two phrases you don’t want to use when it comes to guaranteeing your guest total for the caterer,” Lenderman said. “This number equates to money — at times, lots of money.”
Speaking of guest lists, you’ll save a bundle by inviting a smaller crowd.
The pandemic further popularized micro weddings — so you’ll be in good company if you decide to downsize to a more intimate affair.
“If you have a guest count of 200 people, that’s 20 tables of 10. But by bringing it down to 150, you just eliminated five tables,” said wedding and event planner Danielle Rothweiler. “That means five fewer centerpieces that you need to have, and 50 fewer meals and bar tabs.”
Even cutting your guest list by 10 or 20 people can save you $1,000 on food, alcohol and rentals.
How do you decide who makes the cut? “We tell our clients that if the person hasn’t shared a drink, a laugh or a cry with you in the past year, there’s no reason they need to share all three at your wedding,” Rothweiler said.
When you plan your budget, don’t forget to factor in gratuities. Some of these will be spelled out in your contracts, like that of your wedding venue or caterer.
But don’t forget those smaller gratuities. Getting your hair done at the salon? You’ll be tipping. Getting chauffeured for the day? There’s another tip.
Trim wedding costs by choosing an unusual time and date for your big day.
You may get a better deal booking a weekday wedding instead of a Saturday or Sunday. More venues are offering this option as a way to meet demand and earn extra revenue.
With so many backlogged weddings, there really isn’t an “off season” anymore. It might be tricky to find a cheaper time of year to host your wedding. For the sixth year in a row, October is expected to be the most popular month to get married, according to The Knot. If you can find a venue with availability, you’ll likely pay top dollar in October.
Instead, you may score a better deal by choosing a less popular month, such as January or February.
Wedding invitations are surprisingly expensive. Couples spent an average of $530 total on wedding invitations and stationery in 2021, according to The Knot.
Here’s how to trim costs.
Many couples who sent out “save the date” invitations since the pandemic began were forced to reschedule due to COVID-19.
Cutting these early notices could save you $100 or more — and that’s before the cost of postage.
To save money on your wedding, email your save-the-date reminders to friends and family instead.
Calligraphy is trendy, but hand-lettered envelopes can cost $3 each.
Instead, solicit your wedding party or family members to help you address invitations. Remember, the envelope will end up in the trash, but your invitation will likely get prime real estate on someone’s fridge. It makes sense to save money on the piece that people discard right away.
Got design chops and want to craft your own wedding invitations? You can check out websites like dafont.com and abstractfonts.com for free or donation-based typeface styles.
Thermography can be an affordable alternative to engraving. While the methods differ, that look of raised ink is almost identical. It’s also cheaper.
Enlisting a graphic designer can help save costs, too. “Find a graphic designer to design your stationery and send you high-res PDFs that you can print and assemble yourself for invitations, table numbers and favor tags,” suggested McNall.
Not sure how to find a designer? Check Etsy or even Fiverr: Most printable suites cost under $100 if you request minimal edits.
Dreading buying stamps for your invitations, response cards and thank yous? Go digital by checking out a wedding website like Joy, Paperless Post or Greenvelope.
You’ll get access to a wide range of tools, including RSVP and plus-one tracking, registry announcements and photo sharing. You can even send out survey questions to collect meal preferences, allergies and song requests from your guests.
The U.S. Postal Service hates square envelopes.
OK, we don’t know that for sure, but we do know that square envelopes require more postage than the standard rectangle. Those cents add up quickly!
Tissue in invitations is a thing of the past. “Sheets of tissue between layers of invitation packages were used in the past to prevent ink smudging,” explained Carolyn Garin and Kathleen Hughes of The Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide.
Tissue paper is likely unnecessary for your modern invites, and you can even skip the interior envelopes for most invitation suites.
Use a postcard for each guest’s response instead of a card with an envelope.
“The cost to print these is about the same as an enclosure and envelope, but the big savings is in the postage,” author Lenderman said.
Services like The Knot and eWedding are free wedding platforms where you can list accommodation options, directions and a link to your registry.
List your free wedding website on your invitation or an accompanying note, and you’ll be able to skip a few of those extra cards people usually lose from invitation packets.
Here are a few ways to save money on snaps and videos.
Working with an up-and-coming wedding photographer instead of a pro can save you big money. Find one through friends, social media or even Craigslist. Make sure to check out their online portfolio of prior work.
Photographer Dorie Hagler advised against hiring a studio that seems too inexpensive to be true.
“It’s better to hire a local newspaper photographer,” she said. “They show up early, stay late and they know how to cover an event. Many high-end wedding photographers were newspaper photographers first.”
Many photographers offer an assistant “second shooter” in their standard contracts, but others offer it as an option and charge extra.
If you’re expecting fewer than 100 guests, one photographer should suffice.
Many photographers offer hourly blocks to fit all sorts of occasions. If you can only afford your top-pick photographer for a few hours, Hagler said to organize your event so you cut the cake (and arrange other special moments) in that time frame.
Don’t pay for a pricey album if you can avoid it. “If you get the digital photos, you can make prints of your favorites,” said Lou Lomibao of SnapKnot.
If you decide later that you’d like a physical album, you can create one that fits your budget at that time.
Want to capture big moments, but don’t want to pay big bucks for a videographer?